Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Curio Cabinet of Metal #1

Motorhead 1916 Promo Releases

Muthas, this is the first article in a new series that will feature the rare, the odd, the strange and the sometimes interesting bits from my collection.  I’ve amassed a nice quantity of stuff over the years and I thought you might want to see some of it.  So to kick things off let’s take a look at the various recordings released by Epic/CBS/Sony/WTG to promote the Motorhead album 1916.

Vagrancy may still result even with purchase.
Motorhead had bad luck with record labels throughout their forty years of existence, and by the mid-80s they had sued their label Bronze Records and actually prevailed in the case.  Free from their Bronze contract they formed their own label – GWR – with their management and good times were on the horizon, right?  Of course not. because they actually ended up involved in a lawsuit with GWR in 1988!  This explains why there was a four year gap between the release of Rock ‘n’ Roll and 1916.  The GWR lawsuit was finally resolved in 1990 and the band signed with Epic Records under the WTG imprint.  Things were finally looking up for the band business wise and they finally had the promotional power of one of the biggest records labels in the world behind them.

1916 was recorded in 1990 and the Epic promotional machine swung in to action by releasing several recordings to promote the new album.  The first of which was released only in the U.K. in late 1990 to promote the band’s February, 1991 tour.  The One To Sing The Blues promo comes in several formats including CD, cassette, 7”, 12” and picture disc.  The CD version (cat. no. 656578 2) was quite valuable to Motorhead completists and collectors because it includes two unreleased tracks from the 1916 recording sessions – “Eagle Rock” and “Dead Man’s Hand.”  Both are trademark Motorhead speedballs which rival anything on the album proper.

The 7” single version (cat. no. 656578 7) is a two tracker with “Dead Man’s Hand” on the b-side.  The 12” version has the same tracklisting as the CD version and the picture disc (which came in both 7” and 12” versions) has the same tracklisting as the 7” single.  The cassette also has the 7” tracklisting. I have the 7” and the CD versions and here’s what they look like:

The next promo is It’s Almost…1916 (cat. no. NSK 2295) which was released in 1991 on CD only for use at radio stations.  This is a 3 track affair with “The One To Sing The Blues,” “I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)” and a 9 minute interview with Lemmy as track three.  The interview is interspersed with snippets of “Angel City,” “The One To Sing The Blues,” “I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care),” “Nightmare/The Dreamtime,” “No Voices In The Sky,” and “1916.” The interview is the highlight here, particularly Lemmy's discussion of “1916” and The Battle Of The Somme. Lemmy does say that 96,000 died before noon on the first day, but that’s not true.  There were a little over 19,000 British troops that died that first day, not 96,000.  That’s still a horrific slaughter by any measure.  I think Lemmy was confusing the number killed on the first day with the number killed in the entire battle which actually was almost 96,000.  Regardless, it an interesting promotional piece and here’s some pictures or my copy:

Next up is No Voices In The Sky (cat. no. NSK 4010) which is a two track promo with no cover.  It’s got full lyrics on the back for the title track and the second track is the unreleased “Eagle Rock.”  It’s a standard radio station promo piece from the era, but it had some collectability due to the unreleased track.  Here’s mine:

The last promo release is Angel City And Other Cities Live 1991-1916 (cat. no. NSK 4169) which is a five track promo with no cover.  “Angel City” is the studio version of the song and the other 4 cuts – “Going To Brazil,” “No Voices In The Sky,” “I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)” and “Ramones” – are all live.  The live tracks are all taken from the Sony video Motorhead Live Everything Louder Than Everything Else which was released on VHS tape.  You’ve probably seen “Ramones” from that release because MTV played it frequently in the early 90s.

What’s amazing about this release is one particular quote on the back cover from, of all places, Seventeen magazine!!! In case you don't know, Seventeen magazine was a publication aimed at tween/teen girls and probably wasn’t your first choice for Motorhead reviews back in 1991. Epic Records was so powerful back in 1991 that even Seventeen magazine had to stop writing about Richard Grieco and how to look great on your first date in order to promote Lemmy and the boys.  Check out my copy:

Grieco ist Krieg!

So that was all of the promotional releases from the 1916 album, but if you are wondering how much you are going to have to shell out to score the two unreleased songs on that CD promo the answer is not much!  Luckily for you, Epic put out two greatest hits compilations that both include “Dead Man’s Hand” and “Eagle Rock.” In 2003, they released Hellraiser Best Of The Epic Years and in 2007 Hellraiser – The Best of the WTG Years and both are still readily available.

In 2014, Cherry Red Records released the album with remastered sound, a thick booklet that is packed with photos and full lyrics, and most importantly, the two unreleased tracks are tacked on as bonus cuts.  It’s the ultimate version of this album and features a picture that perfectly encapsulates Motorhead’s entire ethos:

Angel City indeed.

So that’s the first installment of the Curio Cabinet of Metal.  I hope you liked it and more oddities are on the way. 


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Dying Wind Through Shredded Sails

Anthrax – For All Kings

Megaforce – 2016

Muthas, hot on the heels of Megadeth’s new album Dystopia, we have gotten another Big Four™ album and this time it's from New York’s Anthrax.  Oddly enough, just like Megadeth, they have added a new member from a metalcore band -Shadowfall’s Jonathan Donais – and he’s an improvement over the person he's replacingthe - Rob Caggiano.  Also like Megadeth, the artwork on For All Kings is excellent – the band have once again used the always awesome Alex Ross.  Unlike Megadeth, this album is not a triumph at all, and in fact it pales in comparison to their excellent 2011 album Worship Music.

This may be one of the most frustrating albums I have ever listened to.  There are all sorts of great ideas on the album, including many cool solos and riffs, but the majority of the songs never seem to gel and most contain odd departures.  The album is littered with many strangely melodic pre-choruses/choruses that simply do not fit with the rest of the song they’re tacked on to.  I have no idea what Anthrax was trying to achieve with this tactic.  Did they think cramming Modern RAWK choruses into their songs was a great idea? What you get here is neither fish nor fowl - it's part thrash and part modern, melodic hard rock - all in the same song usually!

To further compound things Joey’s vocals sound odd and most of the songs seem like they weren’t written with him in mind. Don’t expect “Medusa Part 2” because you sure as hell aren’t getting it here. This is even stranger when you consider that Worship Music wasn’t written for Joey at all and he sounds great on it! He’s an excellent vocalist and this album does nothing to showcase his considerable talents.  

Another issue I have with For All Kings is the terrible sequencing.  Why in the world did they choose to kick things off with a symphonic instrumental and then a six minute long song with a huge slowdown at the midpoint?  Hey dummies, put this song at track four or five after you’ve served up some speedier fare.  Is sequencing really that hard to understand?  It’s not a terrible song at all, and does slip into that patented Anthrax DUN DUN DUN riff by the end, but it shouldn’t be the lead off cut.

The tile track is somehow lifeless with (of course) a god awful chorus. This pattern repeats itself over and over again on the album. What’s the deal with the weird modern RAWK chorus in “Breathing Lightning?”  I simply don’t understand why this choice was made continually on the album.

So is there anything good here?  Thankfully there is, but inexplicably most of the good tunes are at the end of the album.  “Defend/Avenge” is nicely aggressive with a good chorus, even if the riff sounds like a ripoff of Marilyn Manson’s cover of “Beautiful People.” I also like "All Of Them Thieves" with its memorable stop/start chorus, and tasty, speedy solo.  I wish more of the album was like this.  

Album closer "Zero Tolerance” is thrashy Anthrax of yore and is one of the better tracks here, and it would be a good track to add to their live set.  I also like the single “Evil Twin” which is sounds more like you would imagine a classic ‘Thrax song sounds like.  Check it out here:


The Bottom Line:  I am hugely disappointed in this album.  I am a big Anthrax fan but I am nonplussed when I listen to For All Kings. You may want to give it a shot if you are a fan of the band, but just be aware you might not like what you hear.  


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Evil Never Dies

Megadeth – Dystopia

Universal – 2016

Muthas, I don’t know if you’ve noticed it, but Megadeth is by far the most prolific of the Big Four™.  Since 2000 they’ve released seven albums, whereas Slayer has put out four, Anthrax has three and Metallica has only managed two. You might not like everything they’ve done, but Dave Mustaine and the bodys shows no signs of stopping their career any time soon.  Which brings us to their newest album, Dystopia, which features one (two?) new band members – Angra’s Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God’s Chris Adler (who’s a studio only member or something – he might tour too, whatever.) 

Megadeth’s last album – Super Collider – was an unmitigated disaster that was almost as bad as the atrocious Risk from 1999.  The album was a mess of commercial songs, banjos, fiddles and David Draiman (?!), which stiffed completely at the box office.  I’m not sure what Dave was thinking, but it was a major disappointment for the fans, especially so because it came after a string of good albums. On the plus side, we did learn about Dave’s hatred of model rocketry in the “Super Collider” video. 

Fuck Yo Rocket!

Super Collider was followed by a management shakeup and the exit of both Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover.  There were then rumors that the “classic” lineup of Marty Friedman and Nick Menza would be coming back, but that never came to fruition.  (By the way, that lineup produced exactly one great album and a bunch of good to complete shit albums, so I don’t care if they ever get back together.)  Following this, Kiko and Chris were announced as filling out the vacant slots and recording began.  So how’d it turn out? 

Thankfully, it turned out great with nary a banjo, fiddle or David Draiman anywhere in sight!  Vocally, Dave sounds strong and his old sneering, snotty voice is all over the album.  Junior is solid as always and even gets to show off a bit in some songs.  Kiko and Chris are both good and I think Chris’s drumming adds much needed fire to the compositions.  Lyrically, Dave focuses on corruption, societal disintegration and the illegitimacy of the societal elites.  He’s really full of the old venomous piss and vinegar again.

The album starts with the killer “The Threat Is Real” that features a middle eastern flavored intro before plunging headlong into a thrashy crusher circa Countdown To Extinction. Check out the animated video:

The first single is the blistering “Fatal Illusion” which is pure, old school Megadeth that recalls “Wake Up Dead.”  I would have placed this as the opening track on the album, because this is the type of song that old-school thrashers want to hear and it also ably demonstrates that Megadeth doesn’t take a back seat to anyone in the Big Four™.  Great stuff!

A hallmark of Dystopia is its very catchy choruses the will burrow their way into your brain and live their for a long time.  I was humming the, “Know Know Know” chorus from “Bullet To The Brain” for days after hearing it.   

The drumming is top notch and really stands out when compared to what Shawn Drover was doing.  It’s obvious that Chris Adler was drumming for his favorite band and wanted to put his mark all over the proceedings. Kiko also contributes greatly and actually has co-writing credits on three songs -  “Post American World,” “Poisonous Shadows,” and “Conquer Or Die.” All of them are good with the chugging “Poisonous Shadows” sounding like a long lost track from Countdown To Extinction or Youthenaisa. This cut blends seamlessly with the instrumental “Conquer Or Die” where Kiko gets to strut his stuff from the acoustic flamenco intro to the electrified intricacies on the rest of the song.

Another highlight is the face ripping speedster “Lying In State.” This is vintage Megadeth which would be at home on the mighty Endgame or the classic Rust In Peace.  If you aren’t banging your head at the 2:20 minute mark, you’re most likely dead.

Strangely, I’ve read many reviewers complaining about not liking the chorus from the closing track “Foreign Policy.”  Hey idiots, that’s a cover song by the band Fear, so stop complaining about it.  Maybe Dave’s buddy Lee Ving needed some cash or something to make up for the lack of sales for MD.45.

Hey look!  I bought all this stuff!

Visually, this is probably the best album artwork Megadeth has ever used with the album coming wrapped in a cover that features a cyborg Vic Rattlehead armed with a katana, some drones and a destroyed metropolis burning in the background.  This would make a killer poster for your music room, apocalypse bunker, concert venue or Skynet installation. 

The Bottom Line: Dystopia is the equal of Endgame and is the best thing any of the Big Four™ have done for years.  It’s definitely worth your coin so go buy it!


Sunday, January 3, 2016

See Me Burning

Death Or Glory:
The Best of 2015

Muthas, 2015 has bit the dust and I’m back with a list of all the best, and some of the worst albums, EPs, concerts, reissues and album covers.  Enjoy!

Thunder & Lightning - The Best Albums of 2015

2015 seemed to be a slower year for releases, but there were several excellent albums that grabbed my attention.  Here’s the best of them:

Black Trip – Shadowline

This is a great sophomore release from these Swedish purveyors of tasty, melodic, heavy 70s style hard rock.  They sure do love Thin Lizzy which makes them all right in my book.  Check out “Berlin Model 32” for a rollicking good time.

Visigoth – The Revenant King

Crushing and bruising their way into my ironclad heart is the debut LP from Salt Lake City’s own Visigoth.  Full review here.

Venom – From The Very Depths

Cronos and crew roar back to life with a solid and unexpectedly good album of signature latter day Venom.  Full review here. 

Raven – ExtermiNation

NWOBHM stalwarts, Raven, have crafted a superb album that easily eclipses their last couple of albums.  The LP is chock full of their “athletic rock” stylings, and harkens back to their first three albums. Check out the excellent “Fight.”

Armored Saint – Win Hands Down

The new album completely wipes the floor with their weak sauce last album and has energy and inspiration to spare.  The fire in the belly is palpable here as these traditional metal stalwarts offer up an album of blistering guitar work and amazing vocals.  At least seven of the cuts are classics and this is definitely their best album since Symbol of Salvation.  Guitars, guitars, guitars everywhere!!!! Check out “An Exercise In Debauchery.” 

Sorcerer – In The Shadow Of The Inverted Cross

I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Sorcerer, because they had only released two demos and then faded into obscurity over twenty years ago.  They reformed in 2010 and this year they cranked out this spectacular album of epic doom metal.  If you like Tony Martin era Black Sabbath you will love this.  Each track is like a pounding anvil of doom straight to the skull!  Check out “TheDark Tower Of The Sorcerer” for an idea of how good this album is.

Satan – Atom By Atom

Yet another superb album from these NWOBHM merchants.  Check out the full review here.

Saxon – Battering Ram

Cleary, Saxon can do no wrong.  They are rivalled only by Motorhead and Overkill when it comes to only releasing excellent and consistent albums in the last 25 years.  On Battering Ram, the band offers up an album that is full of top-notch power metal sprinkled with rock solid traditional metal.  Damn this is good.  Check out the title track.

Ram – Svbversvm

Whatever Sweden is doing to encourage excellent metal, they are doing it right because Ram has released the best album of their career.  I like their entire discography, but this LP displays loads of Screaming For Vengence era Priest-ish style and very memorable songs.  I can’t recommend this one enough!  Please buy it and support this type of traditional metal.  Check out “Enslaver” and you’ll understand my effusive praise.

Night Demon – Curse Of The Damned

What can I say about Night Demon’s first LP that I haven’t already said in the full review here?  Not much, other than to tell you that it’s easily one of the best traditional metal albums released in the last 25 years.  Buy or die!

Enforcer – From Beyond

Damn Enforcer is good.  They always deliver and this year is no different.  Check out my full review here.

Motorhead – Bad Magic

I am writing this shortly after Lemmy slipped this mortal coil for the great mead hall in the sky and it’s nearly impossible to overstate just how important he was to heavy music of the past 40 years.  He always delivered the goods.  Always.  No faltering.  No trend hopping.  No “return to form” because he never was out of form. No comeback because he never left.  This album is no different.  Sure, he might sound a bit threadbare, but he was 69 when he recorded this and on his last legs.  Guess what?  Bad Magic is better than 99% of the bullshit that most magazines, blogs, writers, journos and other idiots drone on and on about.  Was there ever an album that was as much of a goodbye as this one?  The lyrics are full of farewells and no regrets.  It’s a biography of a life of no bullshit and no compromises.  Check out the lyrics to “Thunder & Lightning” which tell you all you ever need to know about Lemmy and Motorhead:

I always wanted the scream in the night
I always wanted the noise and the light
     Standing on the stage the thrill never fades
     The ultimate rage, raving and fighting
     Maybe you’ll shake, maybe you’ll break
     You’ll never escape, thunder and lightning

One Short Life – The Best EPs of 2015

Orchid – Sign Of The Witch

Surprise! Orchid’s back with another great EP. Of course they are.  Check out the full review here.

Denner / Shermann - Satan's Tomb

This is a killer little EP that features the always amazing Michael Denner and Hank Shermann ripping it up with solos and riffs galore.  On top of that, the EP features the stellar vocals of Sean Peck who also fronts Cage and Death Dealer.  This blows Force of Evil out of the water and it's very good, old school power metal.  A full length LP is supposed to follow in 2016.  Check out “Satan’s Tomb.”

No Sleep At All – The Best Live Album of 2015

Enforcer – Live By Fire

Not content with having one of the best studio albums of the year, Enforcer have released the best live album of the year – Live By Fire.  If you haven’t heard anything from the band this is as good as any place to start because this is a virtual greatest hits set.  The band sounds great as they blast through sixteen tracks live from the Kytarro Clue in Athens, Greece.  The CD version of the album also include a cracking DVD featuring nine songs live from Japan.  Finally, all versions of the release have a bonus 3 track EP – Speak The Tongue Of Heathen Gods – included to further add more bang for the buck for the fan.  Check out the ripping “Scream Of The Savage.”

Dancing On Your Grave - The Best Reissues of 2015

Wargasm – Why Play Around?

Finally an official reissue of the debut from Boston’s Wargasm!  This album has been bootlegged for years, and now we get a real reissue with great sound and nice packaging.  If you are a fan of Motorhead and especially Tank this will be right down your alley.  This is a definite must buy!  Check out their classic “Revenge.”

Shok Paris – Steel And Starlight (The Auburn Sessions)

Hello Cleveland!  Auburn Records has thankfully released their version of this 1987 USPM classic!  This reissue features a completely different mix from the I.R.S. Records release, the original running order and a host of bonus tracks. The band sounds great on this and Vic Hix’s vocals are stellar as always.  His soulful, passionate tone added so much to Shok Paris and set them apart from their contemporaries.  Check out their all time great cut “Tokye Rose.”

I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care) – The Biggest Disappointments of 2015

The Sword – High Country

I love The Sword and I was looking forward to their new album.  Unfortunately, High Country sounds like an album by a band that's rushed and confused. They can’t seem decide what they want do or sound like, and as a result the album never really gels. Also fifteen tracks is about five too many and the album needs some judicious trimming.  Nothing stuck with me after repeated listens and quickly faded from my playlists.  Oh well, maybe the next release will be more focused.

Panzer – Send Them All To Hell

Who didn’t think a band featuring Schmier from Destruction and Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann of Accept wouldn’t be great?  Well, it wasn’t.  The album did absolutely nothing for me and is lacking any real hooks.  It also got lost in the early January release shuffle here in the United States.  Maybe things will get better on the next LP.  

We’re Artists! We’re Sensitive As Shit! – The Best Album Cover of 2015

Panzer’s album may have been a pile of meh, but their album cover is kick ass!  A giant panzer!  Flamethrowers!  Fire! Skulls!  Apocalyptic visions!  Count me in with those visuals. Well done Gyula Havancsak.  Your artwork is everything a heavy metal cover should be.  Hail and Kill!

Stone Deaf In The USA – The Best Concerts of 2015

Night Demon – June 6th, Gooski’s, Pittsburgh PA

Night Demon killed it in a tiny Pittsburgh club for a small group of hardcore fans. Check out the full review and setlist here.

Overkill – September 21st, Altar Bar, Pittsburgh PA

I hadn’t seen Overkill since the Relixiv tour back in 2005, and thankfully they hadn’t missed a step in the intervening decade.  They were a well-oiled machine and played an excellent set of classics and newer material that had the pit going all night.  I was nursing a cold, but even I was singing along at the top of my lungs.  I hope to see them again in the near future!

Saxon/Armored Saint – September 17th, Altar Bar, Pittsburgh PA

Saxon hadn’t played Pittsburgh since 1983 and Armored Saint had never played Pittsburgh so this was destined to be a special night.  The Altar Bar was completely full and the crowd was electric.  This might have been the most enthusiastic crowd I have ever been in.  Armored Saint seemed stunned by the thunderous response they received from the crowd and they were in fine form.  I hope they come back to the Steel City soon.  I haven’t seen Saxon since 1998(!) and they were amazing.  The crowd was euphoric and sang along to every song.  The band even took requests because they had been absent from Pittsburgh for so long.  God damn it was great.  It’s nights like these that remind me why I put up with all the bullshit of going to a live show.  There’s nothing better than being in a crowd that’s completely at one with a band’s performance – totally chill inducing.

Y&T – May 5th, Altar Bar, Pittsburgh PA

Finally!  Y&T is one of my all-time favorite bands and I own their entire discography, but I had never managed to see them.  Thankfully, I have now and they more than delivered.  Dave Meniketti still sounds great and his playing is superb.  The band was in great form and they had a great rapport with the audience.  Thanks for the great show and I hope to see you again!


That's it muthas!  Thanks for reading and I'll see you all right back here in 2016.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Burning Metal

Rockaway Drive – We Live

Independent – 2012

Muthas, I’m not normally in the habit of reviewing three year old albums, but I was listening to an episode of the always awesome Rock And Metal Combat Podcast, and cohost Ian Wadley recommended a band by the name of Rockaway Drive.  He played a couple of their songs and I was completely blown away by the quality of the cuts.  I immediately began searching for information on them and I found their Facebook page and ReverbNation account.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate any of their CDs for sale, and there only appeared to be a couple of their tracks for sale as downloads.  I then contacted the band and they quickly responded with information and a link to their whole album on Youtube. Thanks guys!  

Rockaway Drive is from the same city that’s home to half of my family - Louisville, Kentucky - and they play rock solid, traditional heavy metal.  In fact, if their debut album We Live had been released back in 1984, it would slot right in with other U.S. Power Metal like Shok Paris, Ded Engine, Breaker, and Riot. There’s a ton of mid-80s Judas Priest to many of these songs too, which is always a good thing.   

We Live features ten tracks and is 39 minutes long, which is the perfect length for an album – not so much material that you lose interest, but rather they leave you wanting more.  The songs themselves are mostly straight-up traditional metal with tasteful guitars and a solid rhythm section.  There are a couple of slightly more commercial tracks, and by that I mean commercial for 1984 because they sure as aren’t commercial for 2015!  The vocalist on the album is very good and he sounds like one part Rhett Forrester, one part Harry Conklin, with a dash of Midnight and a pinch of Mandy Lion’s rough edge.  Basically, he’s got the perfect voice for this type of material – melodic with a rough edge.  

Check out the songs “We Live” and “Black Witch” which are great examples of what they do.  In fact, just listen to the whole album below:

The band was nice enough to provide me with the following bio which should answer most of your questions: 

“Rockaway Drive was formed in August of 2009 with one goal in mind and that was to bring back the sounds of 70s and 80s Heavy Metal. In the six years of the band’s existence they have played countless local shows in the Louisville, KY area, and they have opened for such acts as Metal Legends Accept, Quiet Riot, and most recently, Sanctuary.  They released their debut album, We Live in 2012 to much critical acclaim.  Over the years there have been a few line-up changes and other challenges, but the band continues to march forward!  The current line-up are led by the twin axe attack of Mick Watkins and Wes Rogers, vocalist Dani O’Dea, bassist Brad Rogers and drummer Nigel Paul.  They are currently writing material for their sophomore release and aiming for a 2016 release date.”

Also, check out the following live videos featuring the current lineup:

I am looking forward to their new album and I hope they make We Live available in its entirety either digitally or in a physical format.  Pro tip - a Bandcamp page is always a good way to sell some downloads and merch!

The Bottom Line: Do you like U.S.P.M. and traditional heavy metal and do you like supporting independent bands?  If so, check out Rockaway Drive and throw them some coin when their new album is released.  I know I will. 


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Let Them Pacify While We Annihilate

Satan - Atom By Atom

Listenable – 2015

Muthas, in 2015 several NWOBHM bands have released, or are set to release, new albums.  I’ve already reviewed the new Iron Maiden, I’ll review the new Saxon shorty, and this time I’m reviewing the new album from Satan.  In 2013, Satan came out of nowhere with one of the best albums of the year – Life Sentence.  It has a legitimate claim to the crown for most impressive comeback album of all time.  The band intentionally wrote and recorded the album as if they were recording the follow-up to their 1983 classic Court In The Act.  Most bands claim to do this, but they normally deliver something that’s various shades of disappointing.  Life Sentence delivered on that promise and then some, with the album being maybe the best thing they have ever done.  So how does the new album, Atom By Atom stack up?  Read on!

Atom By Atom picks right up where Life Sentence left off and is definitely a worthy successor.  It features their patented intricate guitar work, solid rhythm section, and the ageless voice of Brian Ross. The forty seven minute album offers up ten tracks that are all good if not great.  There are no low points on the album to bore the listener, which is very rare with older, reunited bands. 

“Farewell Evolution” kicks off the proceedings with a killer scream and then tons of frantic, frenetic guitars that propel song ably.  It’s a great way to launch an album!  “Fallen Saviour” and “Ruination” display more pure speed, hooky guitar work and tasty vocals.  “The Devil’s Infantry” has appropriately martial drumming and crunchy guitars with really cool lyrics. Also, the final scream from Ross is a perfect display of his vocal power. Check it out here along with the rest of the album:

It should be noted that Satan write some insanely catchy choruses that will drill right into your gray matter and stay there for days and the title track is a great example of this. There are a couple of other superlatives tracks on the album – the galloping “In Contempt,” the middle-eastern flavored tinged “Ahriman,” and the uber-catchy “Bound In Enmity,” which reminds of their song “Twenty Twenty Five.” So damn good!

One of the absolute highlights of the LP is the final cut, “The Fall Of Persephone” which spins an epic tale of the destruction of the Earth by a meteor.  This is a departure for Satan with its varied tempos, mid-song spoken word piece, and the result is an unmitigated triumph. This sprawling track proves that you don’t need eighteen minutes to tell a great story and enthrall your audience.  Also, it’s not about a fucking blimp that crashes, which certainly helps.


The Bottom Line:   This is a great album and a more than worthy follow up to “Life Sentence.”  It’s definitely worth picking up if you are a fan of the band, the NWOBHM or great heavy metal in general.  There’s much to love here and it’s definitely worth purchasing, so go out and get it.

As always, MAKE MINE METAL!  

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Book Of Lols?

Iron Maiden – The Book Of Souls

BMG – 2015

Muthas, have you noticed that every recent album from the Old Masters of Metal has been praised to the hilt as being superb – Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, AC/DC, and now Iron Maiden?  Let’s face the truth, most of these albums range from awful, to forgettable, to passable, to average.  None of them is “the best thing the band has ever done” regardless of what most reviewers and the band members themselves claim.  So that brings us to the latest album from Iron MaidenThe Book Of Souls.  Most of the reviews of this album have devolved into nothing more than a hagiography of Maiden, with such absurd claims that it’s the best album since Brave New World, or Fear Of The Dark, or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, or even more absurdly Powerslave.  Come on man, that’s total bullshit.  Let’s not go crazy here, and instead let’s take a look at this album with an honest, critical eye.

Two things are immediately apparent upon the first listen to this 93 minute double album- the production by Kevin Shirley is fucking atrocious and Bruce’s vocals are very strained on the majority of the tracks. It’s is baffling to me that the band retains the services of Shirley because his production jobs are universally terrible.  There is absolutely no separation of the various instruments and the drum sound is particularly bad.  Poor Nicko’s drums sound like state of the art cardboard box drum sound from 1995.  Awful.  Bruce is really pushing it on most of the songs and the results are disappointing and troubling.  Bruce needs to take a page from Rob Halford’s book and pull it back a notch and realize that age has caught up with him.  The tongue cancer and chemo can’t have helped matters either.

What about the songs?  Well, there are eleven of them spread over two CDs.  Disc one clocks in at 50 minutes and disc two at 43 minutes. Of course there are some longer tracks, but there are many sub eight minute cuts for a change.  The album kicks off with “If Eternity Should Fail” and it’s a very good opener, with a catchy chorus and doesn’t feel its eight minute length.  The next song is the lead single, “Speed of Light” which feels dull and lifeless at first, but does get somewhat better with repeated listens.  There is a cool video game themed video for it which you can check out below:

“The Great Unknown is a good song that delivers the goods and has that vintage Maiden sound, but the album comes to a screeching halt with the next cut, “The Red And The Black.” Unfortunately, this is not a cover of the killer BOC song, but rather a bloated thirteen minute cut that could really use some judicious trimming.  Of course this is a Steve Harris construction and exhibits all of his worst modern day songwriting habits.  There’s probably a great five minute song lurking in there someplace, but I don’t have the patience for Steve’s bullshit. 

Thankfully, this is followed by “When The River Runs Deep” which shows tons of pep and is not repetitive at all which helps to clean the palate after “The Red And The Black.” Disc one closes with the ten minute title cut, and of the three ten-minute-plus songs on the album it’s the best.

Disc two opens with “Death Or Glory” which sounds like the Iron Maiden of the days of yore and is easily one of the best songs on the album.  It’s direct, full of energy and is a fun listen.  “Shadows Of The Valley” is enjoyable and sounds like something that could have been on Somewhere In Time without the synth guitars. 

“Tears Of A Clown” has cringe inducing lyrics about a comedian that’s really sad inside and it’s dedicated to Robin Williams. Maiden deserves a round of cock punches for this trite horseshit.  A clown that’s sad?!  How inventive!  I’ve never heard of that before.  Fuck off with this.  Paradoxically, the music is very good on this track with some very nice guitar work.  Too bad about the lyrics being hot garbage.

“The Man Of Sorrows” is a bit lackluster and sort of just plods along. It’s not the worst song on the album, but it’s one of the more forgettable compositions.  By the way, really inventive song title there Maiden.  It’s not like Bruce has a far superior song with the same title or anything.    

And that leaves us with only the eighteen minute and three second “Empire Of The Clouds” which many are hailing as a masterpiece on par with “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.”  Those people are fucking idiots. This song is thirteen minutes too long and is a perfect example of self-indulgent, repetitive twaddle featuring Bruce Dickinson at his pretentious worst.  Egads.  There isn’t even a guitar solo until ten minutes into this journey to the center of boredom.  The rest of the band was probably like, “Oh fuck!  Bruce has cancer!  We’d better indulge this horseshit because who knows how long he’ll be around.”  Of course it’s about a blimp that crashed in 1930.  How exciting!  I’d rather listen to Bruce recite passages from a 747 maintenance manual.  Fuck this shit. Boo!!!!

Well this is harsh.  It's not that bad.

The Bottom Line:  The Book Of Souls is not a great Iron Maiden album, but it is the best Iron Maiden album since the reunion.  Of course, that’s not much of a high bar to hurdle, but they did at least achieve that.  If you are a fan of the band from their classic period you will find a lot to enjoy here even with its flaws.  It’s bloated with several tracks that are absurdly long, but you can always skip the nonsense.  If this sounds like something you’d like, then go buy it, or better yet, go buy Bruce’s Accident Of Birth and The Chemical Wedding which are far better than anything that Maiden has put out since 1988.